The second annual “Live Your Healthy Lyfe” event took place on Saturday, August 12, with dozens of booths representing health organizations, community groups, and small businesses, putting the topic of health and wellness center stage. The day-long block party, between Penn and Logan avenues, had several attractions including face-painting and a bounce house for children. There were opportunities to sign up for health insurance, check blood pressure, or learn ways to improve overall health.
The event’s organizer, Teto Wilson, is the owner of Wilson’s Image Barber and Stylists, located on the corner of West Broadway and Penn Ave. Though this is his second year holding the event, Wilson has had a history of facilitating conversations between health groups and members of the Northside community. Recognizing this gap between the Black community and health groups, Wilson believes that an event such as this could help build the relationships.
“I think people are realizing that the relationships were not there,” he said. “If I have a physical ailment or have a family member or a close friend has a physical ailment, and they’re not comfortable going to the hospital or clinic, or if they don’t have a doctor, then they’re probably less likely to get the treatment that they need. They feel like no one is listening to them or understands their plight.”
Originally from Decatur, Illinois, Wilson moved to Minneapolis in 2000, by way of Boston. He opened up his business in the Camden neighborhood before relocating to West Broadway in 2010.
During that time, he had participated in the Clipper Clinic program, a national initiative that helped embed local health organizations within barbershops to give individuals direct access to health services. Wilson’s clients could get their blood pressure and BMI measured along with other quick procedures as they waited for their haircuts.
Years later, at the peak of the pandemic, Wilson opened his shop’s doors once again for healthcare providers and turned the shop into a center where nearby residents could get vaccinated on Fridays and Saturdays. He saw the hesitancy in some community members dissipate when they realized that he was helping provide the vaccines.
“It went from having people saying, ‘Nope, I’m not getting that shot. I don’t want it,’ to them coming into the barbershop feeling like I was a trusted messenger,” Wilson said. Over the course of a year, Wilson’s barbershop gave out 1,200 shots to Northsiders through his efforts.
In continuing to bridge the community with healthcare providers, this year’s event worked to incorporate a broader vision of health. According to Wilson, the three components of health that made up the health and wellness-focused event were financial health, physical and mental health, and housing stability.
Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity and First Independent Bank were present at the event representing these other components of health to illustrate the holistic approach. Natalie Johnson Lee echoed Wilson’s point on approaching all levels of health with the event.
“We have to look at our community in totality,” she said. “We are a communal people. It is important that you deal with us from a communal perspective. You deal with a whole person and not just parts of the person, because that’s how we show up. We show up in totality.”
Johnson Lee also underlined the importance of the health organizations coming directly to the community, as accessibility and communication have been an issue for the Black community when it comes to their relationship with healthcare providers. She also shared that although every member of the community might not have attended the event, they would surely catch wind of it from a friend or family member who did.
“One of the things about our community is that we share information,” she said. “Just because they’re absent doesn’t mean they don’t get the information. Because of how our community is structured, we care for one another.”
The block party was sponsored by several health institutions including UCare, Children’s Minnesota, and Northpoint. Ladonna Ross attended the event representing Gillette Children’s, educating families about the hospital’s work. She said that the block party was an opportunity for her, as a Black woman, to show the community that there are people at these organizations that share their lived experiences and want to help.
“I grew up low-income myself and with no health insurance. So we faced some healthcare disparities,” Ross said. “I just think it’s important to see people like yourself. It makes it more welcoming. It makes it less scary.”
Tiffany Cobb was also at the Gillette booth and spoke about her experience as a neuropsychologist and how far communities have come to understand health disparities and reduce stigmas around cognitive issues.
“I’m glad we’re participating in this kind of thing so that we can bring that awareness and try to break that stigma a little bit so that our kids can get the same kinds of help and assistance that kids in other communities get,” she said.
Reona Berry stood beside her booth donning a bright pink cowgirl hat as she spoke with people about her work at the African American Breast Cancer Alliance. For the past 33 years, Berry has been working with women in the Twin Cities area who have been diagnosed with breast cancer to find the resources and support they need.
Having started the organization after her own diagnosis, Berry found that patients had better experiences with healthcare providers and social workers who looked like them.
“If a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer and she goes to a support group and it’s mostly Caucasian women, they don’t feel comfortable,” she explained.
According to the American Cancer Society, Black women have the lowest survival of all subtypes of cancer and a 40 percent higher breast cancer death rate compared to White women.
Berry credited events such as the block party, as well as information channels from television to radio, to better inform the public about their options for diagnosis and treatment if there’s a history of cancer in one’s family.